I often talk — on panels, with guests on my podcast, WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY™, and in my book, Facing the Seduction of Success — about why I started my own business 16 years ago. Yes, I wanted to run an agency that produced great creative work for the beauty industry I love. Yes, I wanted to have more control over my work and how it impacted the other parts of my life (more about that later.) But I also wanted to change the face of leadership, at least the leadership I had observed and experienced when I was an employee early in my career.
In those first years, as I thought about what my future leadership style might look like, I focused on two things: the toxic work environments I had experienced (i.e., how NOT to lead) and my personal values (i.e., how I strive to live my life.) Had I scribbled some of that preliminary thinking about leadership on a cocktail napkin, it might have read something like this:
- Always remember what it felt like to be the new kid.
- Always remember what it felt like to be the new kid who screwed up.
- Learn to deeply listen.
- Build bridges, not exit ramps.
As Base Beauty has grown, I have formalized the components of leading into a defined office culture, with programs and protocols written down, shared with my team, and carefully followed. Base Beauty’s COO, Aleni Mackarey, and I work hard to make sure that these policies aren’t just nice words posted on the company’s website but part of our everyday approach to working with our clients and each other. There are a lot of pieces to these inner agency workings, ranging from monthly, mandatory mental health days to professional development opportunities; they’re all approached with an attitude of flexibility and understanding.
I have found that this approach to leading by supporting, communicating, and empathizing with each person not only makes our work more pleasant, it has real bottom-line benefits. When people feel supported, included, and heard, they do better work, they stay with us longer, they become more skilled at their jobs, and, as they learn and grow, they can contribute more and more to the agency as a whole. This leads to higher quality, more efficiently executed client work with costs managed, deadlines and goals met, and KPIs hit. And guess what that means? Happy clients who stay with us and a team of people who love their jobs. I call that a win-win; it motivates and excites me every day.
What kind of leader are you, and is that different from the leader you want to be?